1 January 2003
To help ease the pain of that abrupt shift from 2002 to 2003, Solonor's Groovy Grove of Mystical Wonders is providing the appropriate shade for this week's Carnival of the Vanities. For those keeping score, this is installment #15.
And speaking of ongoing features, there's a new Vent. For those keeping score, this is installment #323.
Not ready to face the light
Well, I'm not, but Andrea Harris certainly seems to be: she's blogging at a new address in Spleenville under the title Too Much to Dream.
Very much on a human scale
One of the reasons I have resisted getting a pet is that I know the poor creature's time on earth is short, and dealing with the end of that time is likely to cause me the sort of emotional upheaval I would prefer to avoid it's not exactly like losing a family member, but it's close enough.
A couple of weeks ago, Alan Sullivan described the last few hours of his beloved retriever:
I kneel to rub her head and neck, then I press my cheek against the soft fur of her shoulder. Long and rangy for a Labrador, Maud has shrunk from a robust eighty pounds to a gaunt sixty. Her limp flews tremble with pleasure at my attention, and the rotten teeth chatter. Those teeth are her bane. She can scarcely eat any more, and she wouldn't survive another major round of dentistry.
All right, I'm rationalizing. And I keep thinking that Steve or someone else might contemplate similar rationales over me some day.
The vet comes in three hours.
I had read that when it was a new entry, and I promptly put it out of my mind alongside the other things I'd rather not contemplate. And it stayed there until yesterday, when Bill Peschel reported on the death of the family's senior house cat:
Ever try to explain to a five-year-old girl about death? It wasn't pretty. Nor to hold your 12-year-old son, who grew up with the cat, as he's sobbing into your chest, full of understanding that, eventually, we all go, and that, if he's lucky, he'll get to bury his mom and dad before he, too, shuffles off into eternity.
There really isn't anything else I can say after that.
2 January 2003
Kind of a drab
An old friend of mine used to sign into the local dialups as "Dull N. Boring". (I asked him once, "What's the N for?" "Null," he said.)
Mr Boring has no real input into this site, but clearly it is informed by his spirit: on the splendid table that is the Blogosphere, I'm purveying, at best, a can of sub-Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee pasta-like substances. A dented can, at that. Still, this isn't the dullest Web site in the world it's only a tribute.
(Muchas gracias: LilacRose, now in new digital digs.)
A few good men
Sometimes I schedule a book for future reading on the basis of the title, and the title doesn't have to resonate positively, either; Barbara Dafoe Whitehead's Why There Are No Good Men Left: The Romantic Plight of the New Single Woman, a title I would love to hate on general principle, will simply have to be read.
In the meantime, the author has been interviewed for Atlantic Unbound, and some of her observations did strike me at, um, interesting angles.
Several women mentioned that at times in their life they felt that their intelligence or intellectual achievement seemed to work against them in their romantic relationships with men, but most women felt that there were some men "out there" who would be attracted to smart women. The problem was finding them.
The inference, as I see it: all else being equal, we guys would prefer to be the brains of the operation. This is certainly true of some of us; historically, I have often been drawn to women of greater intelligence than mine, but there's always that nagging thought in the back of my mind: "If she's that smart, what in the world would she want with the likes of me?" The author does in fact touch upon this phenomenon; asked if some men felt they "were being spurned because they aren't impressive enough", she replied:
[S]ome men did, yes, but they tended not to be four-year college graduates. They were guys who were not quite so well-educated and felt that many women looked down on them.
I think there's more to it than that I don't think I'd be any more desirable (or, more precisely, any less undesirable) with a sheaf of postgraduate degrees but frankly, what would a plumber have to say to an art historian? Or, for that matter, what would an art historian have to say to a plumber?
[T]he standard for someone who you'd want to spend your life with hinges much more today on emotional intimacy. It takes some trial and error and a pretty prolonged and dedicated search to identify the kind of person who is emotionally in sync with you and who is able to communicate and listen to trouble talk.
And when there is a perceived socioeconomic gulf, the ability to communicate becomes even more critical; the lack of common experience means that more often than not they'll be scratching around for conversational topics. According to the standard stereotype, men don't really want to talk about things, and maybe there's some truth to that, but the man who can't talk, I suspect, is no real improvement over the man who won't talk.
Women, I have always believed, have a Mate Template of sorts, and whether a man has any chance with her depends on how closely he conforms to the standards she has proposed. Some points are more negotiable than others, and perhaps some won't budge in the slightest, but ultimately, what determines the course of the relationship is how much she's willing to compromise on that template. (Men's selectivity is somewhat less linear, I think.) I don't want to get all Mick Jaggery here, but he was right: you can't always get what you want. Still, some do seem to get what they need.
3 January 2003
It's not easy being screened
Millions of people at America's airports. How do you determine who's just a passenger and who's a terrorist? The new IMAO Frank Test for Terrorists avoids the hemming and hawing and cuts directly to the ten questions that need to be asked. What's more, the Test prescribes a quick and effective means of removing terrorists once identified:
If the test reveals the person to be a terrorist, proper procedure should be for the ticket taker to pull out a gun and unload it into the person while shouting, "Take that, you dirty terrorist!" I know that if I see a terrorist gunned down in front of me just before boarding the plane, I'll feel much safer.
I think he'd feel even safer seeing two of them thus ventilated, assuming they travel in pairs, but certainly this is a start, and let's face it: you don't get this kind of innovative thinking from the likes of Norm Mineta.
You're working in a software package, and at some point you encounter a dialog with a single option: Exit Program. What do you do?
If you said anything other than "exit the program," you probably work here.
Record label gets clue, film at 11
The legendary Vox label has released some 5000 recordings since its birth in the late Forties, and very few of them are available on Compact Disc. Shoving a lot of reissues onto the market is expensive and carries no guarantee of any return on investment. What to do? Vox's answer is Vox Unique, a service by which someone from Vox will go pull a master from the archives and run you off a copy on CD-R for twenty bucks (thirty if it takes two of them). No liner notes, scant artwork, but I suspect a lot of these will go to people who have worn out their old Vox (or Turnabout or Candide) LPs, who already have the pertinent information. And if you've always wanted a copy of Kissing, Drinking and Insect Songs (the Sine Nomine Singers, on Turnabout 34485 from about thirty years ago), now's your chance.
(Via Hit & Run)
The road twice taken
Those wonderful folks at Blogcritics come up with some truly excellent original material.
And then there's their new link button, which says "You're entitled to our opinion," which is also truly excellent, but which, alas, is not original.
Oh, well, you can't have everything.
4 January 2003
North Korea's born-again Stalinists have been making trouble lately, and the Bush administration hasn't come up with much beyond "You break your end of the nuclear agreement and you expect us to pay you for it?" A reasonable response blackmail is not something to be encouraged, after all but probably not enough to banish Kim Jong Il to the back burner.
Even the Democratic Leadership Council thinks this is a reasonable response, but they balk at the notion that the US can go it alone:
[T]he Administration needs to abandon the unilateralism of past policy towards Pyongyang and quickly engage South Korea, Russia, China and Japan in regional talks aimed not only at containing but in reducing the perennial danger posed by a bankrupt state with loopy leadership and loose nukes.
These five-way talks should begin with ensuring the shutdown of North Korea's nuclear program, but should quickly encompass a broader deal in which U.S. troop levels in South Korea are scaled down in exchange for a stand down of North Korean artillery and rockets aimed at its neighbor. Moreover, the talks should focus on a deeper solution to North Korea's economic problems that will not leave Pyongyang perpetually rattling a saber with one hand and rattling a cup with the other. Economic assistance from the United States or from anywhere else should be made strictly conditional on two things: an end to North Korea's one big export program dangerous weaponry and an agreement to emulate China's free enterprise and trade zones, opening up a semi-medieval country to fresh winds of change and genuine economic development.
I have some qualms about this. Were I to recommend free-enterprise role models, I think China would be fairly low on the list; while there are plenty of proper money-grubbing capitalist dogs making actual money, Beijing still seems be obsessed with the glory days of being the Protector of Albania and other counterproductive Maoist memories. Still, if anyone can get Kim's attention, it's the Chinese. Which makes me wonder: why drag Japan and Russia into this?
Anyone who read this log on the first of December (I know there must be at least three of you) noticed that I had mostly kind words for Shania Twain's Up!, with perhaps a hint of puzzlement over the necessity for separate green (down-home Nashville) and red (pop-rock somewhere between Abba and Def Leppard) and blue ("world music" for issue outside the US) mixes of the nineteen songs.
I have now seen the video for the first single, "I'm Gonna Getcha Good!" And I should not have been surprised to observe that the version played on CMT seems to contain almost, if not exactly, the green mix, while VH1 has a copy with the red mix. And I can appreciate the marketing effort here, but turn down the sound and actually look at the silly thing, and you'll witness a lame retread of themes that looked absurd twenty years ago in Tron. The whole thing reeks of "Well, we've got more money than God, let's spend some of it."
Dear MTV (yet another Viacom outlet): It's about time for Shania: Unplugged.
Which, of course, refers to the OTC stock symbol for something called Titan Technologies, Inc.
As for TITT itself, it's selling, as of this moment, at twenty cents a share, and the tout says that it "can easily reach $2.00 in a very short period of time." (Emphasis in the original.) Maybe it can, but I see no reason to be hopeful.
The ragtag bunch of losers known as the Earth Liberation Front (no link; I have some standards) is claiming responsibility for setting jugs of gasoline under six sport-utility vehicles at a Girard, Pennsylvania dealership and igniting them. Three SUVs were destroyed; three jugs failed to ignite.
What I want to know is this: Why in the hell are these people wasting fossil fuels? Don't they read their own propaganda?
(Muchas gracias: duckboy online.)
5 January 2003
And now, the news
Radio station KOMA has been vending oldies for some time now, both on FM and on AM. It's not purely a simulcast: the AM breaks away for five minutes of CBS news at the top of the hour, something the FM listeners presumably don't want. (The AM also carries Bill O'Reilly's Radio Factor weekdays.) None of this presents a problem, except that the AM breakaway is abrupt; if there happens to be a song playing, too bad. And five minutes later, when the FM simulcast is restored, it's just as abrupt.
Now when I was growing up, some actual thought was put into how to segue into the news. Most of my listening in the early-to-middle-Sixties was straight Top 40 stuff, informed (this being South Carolina) by heavy R&B influences, and what was usually chosen as a suitable Last Song of the Segment was something with a fairly ornate outro that could be talked over during its last couple of seconds. The archetype, I'd say, might be "Summer in the City" by the Lovin' Spoonful, which gathers its forces for one final blast of electrified ferocity before settling into a quick fade. Cold endings usually did not work well in this context.
None of this matters particularly in 2003, I suppose. And the FM facility probably draws four or five times the listeners of the AM outlet at least within the market area. But KOMA pumps out 50,000 watts due west and north. With much of the AM band given over to talkers and sports, it's one of the few actual music stations you can pick up in the middle of nowhere at four in the morning, and I suspect someone else, hundreds of miles away, is just as annoyed by this station's sloppy practices as I am.
Trailers for sale or rent
The American movie-going public has apparently adjusted to five or ten minutes of advertising before the Feature Presentation. We don't like them, mind you: we're just resigned to the inevitable.
This sort of blasé acquiescence hasn't made it to China yet. Zhang Yang, upset because the 9:30 showing of Hero was delayed until 9:34 by advertising, filed suit against the theater and the film distributor, demanding the removal of the ads and a refund of his 40-yuan admission (not quite five bucks), plus an additional 40 yuan as compensation. Zhang Yang, as it happens, is a lawyer. Of course, had this happened in the States, there would be a class-action suit and demands for damages in the millions of dollars, which, after legal fees, would eventually be paid off to members of the class in buy-one-get-one-free coupons for Raisinets.
There is a marked dearth of home-schooled youngsters that is to say, zero in the National Honor Society. Not a reflection on the students; it's just that NHS has chapters in schools, and that's that.
Now there's an honor society for home-schooled kids who excel. In 1999, the first chapter of Eta Sigma Alpha was founded in Houston. Now the organization is going national: it has spread to at least ten states and more than twenty chapters.
Why bother, you ask? Membership in NHS scores points on college applications; membership in Eta Sigma Alpha, which has standards even higher than NHS, will eventually score points for the home-schooled. And it's one more step toward burying that stereotype of home schooling as a tool of fundamentalist Christians to ensure that their spawn grow up pious and dumb.
(Muchas gracias: Mrs. du Toit.)
6 January 2003
The Vegas idea
Penn and Teller live in the deranged metropolis of Lost Wages, Nevada, which means that they don't have to seek out showbiz: showbiz looks for them.
Once a year, Penn puts out a list of films, bands, acts, and whatever he watched during the previous year, not so much because he thinks we should care but because it fits in with his need to document everything. The 2002 list, for some reason, is smaller than 2001's.
Teller? He didn't say a word. Go figure.
Still up to date in Kansas City
Someone who presumably had heard Wilbert Harrison once too often posted the following plaintive search at Google: "Is there a 12th Street and Vine in Kansas City?"
Well, yes, sort of. There is a 12th Street, and there is a Vine Street. But they do not intersect anymore; Vine now terminates at 13th.
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who wrote the song, lived in, um, Los Angeles. (Come to think of it, there's no "34th and Vine" in L.A., either, effectively evicting that gypsy with the gold-capped tooth.)
Reverend Al, the bloggers' pal
The air abounds in snickers, and no, not the candy bar; I'm talking about Al Sharpton's Presidental ambitions, and the reactions thereto. To my knowledge, the first full-fledged blog endorsement of the Sharpton candidacy came from Kevin McGehee's blogoSFERICS. And it's not because Mr McGehee desires to see him elected, particularly:
It is long past time for the Democratic Party to put its nomination where its mouth is. If race deserves to be a defining issue in American politics, let's open the debate.
Actually, I think you could open the debate with (or, more interestingly, force the debate upon) any of the current Democratic field; apart from melanin levels and not having spent a lifetime on the public payroll, what's the difference between Sharpton and the competition?
Of course, I don't expect many to follow Mr McGehee's lead. A more typical response is this one from Acidman:
If I could buy him for what he's worth, then sell him for what he THINKS he's worth, I could retire tomorrow.
And that was one of the nicer things he said.
The group known as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has announced a boycott of KFC because of alleged animal-rights abuses which, given PETA's predilections, probably includes being served on a plate.
Perhaps miffed at being left out of the proceedings, members of the Earth Liberation Front are reportedly getting ready to fire-bomb a Pizza Hut.
7 January 2003
There is almost always something to keep me awake when I really, really need to be sleeping. Lately it's a low (below 50 Hz) rumbling that I can't localize but which definitely isn't originating within my living quarters. Obviously something somewhere besides my nerves is vibrating, but what? The upstairs flat has been vacant for two or three weeks, and if it were their heating unit, which is directly above mine, it would shut off once in a while, and even if it didn't, I should still be able to hear it more clearly from directly below, and I can't.
If it varied at all in pitch, I'd think "subwoofer," but this is pretty constant. I tell you, stuff like this will kill me even faster than work.
One of the very first pages on this site, going all the way back to May 1996, was titled Bottom 20 of the Top 40. It was, as you might have guessed, a list of twenty tunes which at the time I thought had been insufficiently reviled.
Now appearing at Solonor's Groovy Grove is a list of Worst Songs, a list far more extensive than mine and which includes some songs I would actually defend if no one was looking (Terry Jacks' take on Jacques Brel's "Seasons in the Sun", which, as English-language versions go, is far better than Rod McKuen's, and it's McKuen's lyric, mostly), some songs I sort of enjoy (Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes"), and some songs I dearly love (almost anything by the Four Seasons, but "Dawn" in particular).
That said, there are two songs that get top dishonors from both of us: Paul Anka's creepy "(You're) Having My Baby" and the Captain and Tennille's chirpy "Muskrat Love". If you own a radio station and these are on your playlist, this is why we're listening to your competition.
("Judy's Turn to Cry"? The nerve.)
"My passions lie here in the Senate." And with that observation, Tom Daschle opts out of the 2004 Presidential race.
Jeebus. If the herd thins any faster, the Democrats may wind up having to drag Al Gore, kicking and screaming, back into the fray and oh, the fireworks you'll see.
Watts: so good about goodbye?
Kevin McGehee waxes so lyrical today about former Representative J. C. Watts (R-OK) that shortages of lyric wax are breaking out all across the nation.
Having watched Watts ascend (and occasionally slide sideways) for these many years, I can't say I really miss the guy, but then I figure most Oklahoma politicians are a few years past their sell-by dates anyway. Watts, at least, went out on top. Had he run for another term, he'd have won, no matter how they redrew the district lines, and forget about that "safe minority district" crapola; the Fourth District that elected (and re-elected) Watts was two-thirds white. You can point out that, well, J. C. was a football hero, and therefore, if not on par with Jesus Christ, certainly on the level of John the (Southern) Baptist, but if pigskin prowess were that overwhelming a criterion, Steve "This is BS" Largent would be Governor today.
Kevin McGehee speculates further that Don Nickles, having given up his shot at being Majority Leader, might step aside to make room for Watts in the Senate. This talk was a lot more common inside the D.C. Beltway than it ever was along I-35, I assure you, and it's diminishing further now that Oklahoma has a Democrat in the Governor's mansion. But I have no doubt that if Julius Caesar Watts really wanted another term in Congress in either house he'd have no trouble getting it.
8 January 2003
Coming around again
Were this television, the audio would be compressed into one indistinct mass, and cue the voiceover: NOW That's What I Call Blogging 16!
Mercifully, this is not television if it were, I'd have been cancelled years ago so instead I shall merely suggest a trip to Carnival of the Vanities #16, this week hosted by The Eleven Day Empire. Not available in stores.
Reaching for the sky
On the 26th of May, 2002, a barge took out a 400-foot section of bridge on Interstate 40 in eastern Oklahoma near Webbers Falls, dropping ten vehicles 50 feet into the Arkansas River. Fourteen people were killed.
The monument planned for the Webbers Falls area the bridge has since been reconstructed and reopened will stand fourteen feet tall (of course) and will be topped off by the sculpture of a girl, her arms raised skyward, to commemorate the youngest victim, a three-year-old Arkansas girl. The monument will be constructed in part with metal from the wrecked bridge.
Assuming there is a World Tour 2003, and further assuming that the monument will be completed by mid-July when WT03 is most likely to occur, I'll schedule a side trip to see it up close.
A new face at the Garden
For reasons undisclosed, apparently Joe Garagiola will be replaced in the broadcast booth at the Westminster Kennel Club show this February by CBS weatherman Mark McEwen.
I was sort of hoping for Fred Willard, but I see no reason to be picky.
(Muchas gracias: Gregory Hlatky.)
In one general direction
It's said that if you're twenty and you're not liberal, you have no heart, and if you're forty and you're not conservative, you have no brain. What does this mean as fifty arrives? I have no idea, and I prove it in the latest issue of The Vent.
9 January 2003
Man smart, woman smarter
[O]nce the initial lust is gone, and you realize you have to literally define your words to the guy you're dating, the relationship generally just ends.
This does work both ways; of course, it could simply be that I hate having to explain myself. And while I'm no Einstein (not even Bob Einstein), I'm not quite as dumb as I seem.
Positive tunnel vision
It's called the Metro Conncourse, and no, that's not a typo: it's named for Jack Conn, chairman of the old Fidelity Bank downtown, who with Dean A. McGee led development of Oklahoma City's pedestrian tunnels. The first link, under Broadway at Park Avenue, opened in 1931; over the years, the network of tunnels has expanded to most of downtown. Recently, Bricktown, east of downtown and off the Conncourse, has gotten most of the attention, and the tunnels have been mostly neglected.
Until now. A $3 million master plan for renovation of the tunnels will attempt to make them hip once again, with improvements to both the tunnels and the sidewalk entrances, and the addition of historical galleries to brighten up the rather bland interior. With the new plan comes a new name: "The Underground". Maybe too hip for this crowd, but I've always thought that the tunnels were one of the niftier aspects of downtown, and perking them up is something that's long overdue, especially if downtown promoters expect to pick up on any of the Bricktown frenzy. It's probably not possible to extend The Underground to Bricktown the canal might get in the way but right now, it's more important to remind people that it exists at all.
10 January 2003
Two hundred so far
I used to throw the Charleston Evening Post into ninety-one yards six days a week. It wasn't much fun, but it did teach me the importance of drudgery as a means of putting coins in my pocket, and besides, I didn't have to get up at three in the morning to throw The News and Courier.
As in many other cities, co-owned morning and evening papers were fused into one. But if this fuzzes up the family tree a bit, well, one thing is clear: the original Charleston Courier put out its first edition on 10 January 1803, and today's Post and Courier is celebrating its 200th birthday. As a former reader and, um, independent contractor, I tip my hat to the paper that did as much as any single publication to teach me to read, both the lines of type and the messages in between.
"I don't get it," says your friendly neighborhood doofus. "Iraq may or may not have nukes, and they're about to get incinerated. North Korea definitely has nukes, and we're tiptoeing around them."
Your point being?
"Well, if we're not going to fight Pyongyang, why are we going to fight Baghdad? Did they suddenly find oil in North Korea?"
Ah, yes, the oil thing again. Well, actually, no, they haven't found oil in North Korea; if they had, there might be an outside chance of averting mass starvation north of the 38th assuming the government didn't suck up all the revenues for itself, which, Stalinist bunch that they are, they most likely would.
But why aren't we drawing the same line with North Korea that we are with Iraq? It all boils down to Who's In Your Neighborhood. Iraq is surrounded by a ragtag collection of emirates and such which could be Saddam's for the taking, should he so desire. (In the case of Kuwait, circa 1991, he did so desire, and there's no reason to think he's mellowed.) North Korea, should it try to extend its influence beyond its borders, will run smack dab into South Korea and Japan, which are backed by the US, and China, which isn't, but which also isn't likely to take crap from Koreans.
It's, it's - well, it's Hans Blix!
Ryan Rhodes has a really Sweet song for the UN inspection team. Laugh out loud. I did.
11 January 2003
How long can this go on?
Breathes there a man with soul so dead who never to himself has said: "Jeebus, I could run this place better than these clowns"? Somehow I doubt it. In my own office, this utterance is heard roughly sixteen times a week, and not just from me.
Besides, what qualifications could possibly be required? Secra can certainly fill the bill at her workplace:
I'm cute. I smell good. I'm reasonably calm in a crisis ... unless it's messing up my hair. I know almost all of the words to "Working In A Coal Mine."
She also proposes policy changes, the most truly innovative of which is "Walking away from a paper jam will be considered a dismissable offense."
Oh, well, we'll never lure her away from the Bay Area.
Biting the hand, etc.
On this basis, by now I probably should have been disemboweled, pounded into a paté, ground into powder and poured into a sewer grating.
Ditch, ditch, ditch
Rep. Leonard Sullivan (R-Planet Delusional) thinks the North Canadian River, which snakes its way through the middle of Oklahoma City, should be renamed the Oklahoma River. "I can't see any good reason for Canada to get all of that publicity," says Sullivan, perhaps hoping to set off a firestorm of protest in Ottawa.
But of course. And what better name for a stream which needs mowing twice a year, whose banks overflow at the slightest provocation, than "Oklahoma"?
Why, the Beaver River, which is what the North Canadian is called above the confluence with Wolf Creek. Of course, not everyone will be happy with a name like Beaver, either.
Personally, I blame Taco Bell
The radio-listing site 100000watts.com reports a minor Texas contretemps: the Spanish-language simulcast of KESS (AM) Fort Worth/KDXX (FM) Lewisville, inaugurated this past Wednesday as "La Raza 107.9", was abruptly rebranded on Thursday as "La Que Buena".
Somehow, I find it hard to believe that Hispanic Broadcasting, which operates these stations (the company is not actually owned by persons of Hispanic extraction, but someone should have known this), wasn't aware that using the name "La Raza" might have repercussions. Or maybe they all drive Chevrolet Novas.
Tall and tan and young and lovely
Composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim with a lyric by Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes, "The Girl from Ipanema" was a huge hit (#5 in Billboard) in the States in 1964, in a recording by Stan Getz and João Gilberto for Verve, with Jobim himself at the piano and Gilberto's wife Astrud on the English-language (by Norman Gimbel) vocal. The picture it paints in the mind is vivid indeed, but it never occurred to me to assume that there was a model for it.
Now comes word that The Girl herself, Helo Pinheiro, now 55, will appear on the cover of Playboy's Brazilian edition in March, alongside 24-year-old daughter Triciane. I simply have to get a copy of this for historical purposes, of course.
12 January 2003